|Snell's buzzer-beater lifts Hawks over Raptors|
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The Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks, two teams on the cusp of the playoffs, will get the second half of the season started on Thursday in Toronto.
The Raptors (17-19) are in eighth place in the NBA's Eastern Conference, only one game out of sixth place, but also only one game away from dropping to 11th. The Hawks (16-20) are in that No. 11 spot, currently one game out of the playoff field, but only two games out of the No. 6 position.
The two have played once this season, with Atlanta prevailing 132-121 on Feb. 6 in Atlanta.
"We don't dislike where we are," Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk said. "I wouldn't say we're happy with the way the first half went out, but all things considered, we're still in a good spot. I don't know what the standings are right now, but we're a few games out, right in the mix. It's been a difficult year for all teams, not just us -- whether they've been hit by COVID or injuries."
The Hawks will continue to have a short-handed roster because of injuries.
Cam Reddish, who has missed the last six games with right Achilles soreness, underwent a non-surgical procedure on Monday. He was placed in a walking boot and will be reviewed by the Hawks' doctors in a week.
Atlanta is already missing De'Andre Hunter, who had knee surgery on Feb. 8. He has increased his rehab activities and is closer to a return. Kris Dunn, who has yet to play this season because of right ankle surgery, is expected to be available by the end of March.
The Hawks are led by Trae Young, who averages 26.4 points and 9.4 assists, and Clint Capela, who averages 14.7 points and league-leading 14.2 rebounds.
The Raptors played without five regulars and coach Nick Nurse because of COVID concerns and lost their last two games before the break. Toronto's OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn, Patrick McCaw, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were unable to play. VanVleet and Siakam are both averaging 20.1 points.
Norman Powell, who scored 25 against Boston before the break, said Toronto is ready to make its move once the roster is back to full strength.
"I think we're starting to hit a little stride, trying to figure it out," Powell said. "We've strung two or three wins together, but we're waiting for that good stretch of 5-6-7 wins in a row that we usually have during a season. It'll be a lot better when guys come out of protocol. We should be well-rested and fresh for the second half of the season."
Rumors have persisted about the Raptors' willingness to trade veteran point guard Kyle Lowry. He is averaging 18 points, seven assists and set a career high with 19 assists against the Celtics.
"For a player like Lowery, at 35 (will turn 35 on March 25), an assist guy like he is, to have a career high at this point is really admirable," said Toronto assistant Sergio Scariolo, who acted as head coach while Nurse was unavailable.
--Field Level Media